Mumbai: A group of 20-25 Shiv Sena activists attacked journalists and damaged property at the offices of IBN Lokmat and IBN7, the Marathi and Hindi news channels of the IBN Network, in north-east Mumbai’s Vikhroli on Friday.
Several IBN Network journalists and other employees were beaten up and their clothes torn by the group. The attackers barged into the office at around 1600 hrs IST, slapped a woman receptionist and told employees that they would not accept reports criticizing the Shiv Sena.
Armed with sticks and bats, the attackers damaged furniture and fittings, glass partitions, OB (outdoor broadcasting) vans and electronic equipment. They threw a chair at Nikhil Wagle, IBN Lokmat's editor-in-chief, and tried to punch him.
"The attack was preplanned, they had come armed with sticks and iron rods for creating the mayhem in our offices. They hurled a chair at me," Wagle told media persons.
The Mumbai Police claimed they had arrested seven Shiv Sena workers for the attack.
Eight Shiv Sena workers were arrested in Pune for damaging an IBN7 OB van and pelting stones at the channel’s office in the city.
Sandeep Chavan, a journalist with IBN Lokmat, said the attackers in Mumbai told employees they were looking for Wagle and wanted to “teach him a lesson”. Chavan said the attackers were armed with iron rods, baseball bats and cricket wickets.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan told Network18 the attackers will be punished.
“We had no idea that such a thing was going to happen. Whoever is responsible for this will be severely dealt with. Nobody has the right to assault journalists,” said the Chief Minister.
“You will see action soon,” Ashok Chavan told Network18.
Senior journalist Kumar Ketkar, whose house was attacked by Shiv Sena activists in January 2008, said political organisations attacked the media and others because they felt they can get away with it.
“This must be condemned by the entire media. Political institutions and the government of Maharashtra should be held responsible for stopping such acts,” said Ketkar, executive editor of Marathi daily Loksatta.
The two channels have taken a tough stand against intolerant politics in the state. IBN Lokmat, the number one Marathi channel, has been vocal against the violence in the name of Marathi pride being witnessed in Maharashtra.
Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, executive editor of party newspaper Saamna, admitted to the attacks and called them justified.
Rahul Narvekar, head of Shiv Sena’s legal cell, refused to aplogise for the attacks and said his party was a defender of Marathi Asmita.